Two of the former Premier League players linked with a return to the English top flight this summer are Paul Pogba and Mario Balotelli.
Both are in their early 20s, both play for top Italian clubs and both have huge potential.
And both have the same agent: Mino Raiola.
Raiola is arguably the world’s most famous (or infamous?) football agent and has clients such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Sergio Romero and Blaise Matuidi on his books.
It is well documented how much influence he can have on his players and how much he sticks by them – one of the reported reasons why AC Milan’s executive vice-president Barbara Berlusconi is not too willing to keep Balotelli in the team is just that.
In recent days, both Balotelli and Juventus’ Pogba have been linked with moves back to the Premier League. While the former is said to be on the radar of Arsenal, Chelsea are reportedly planning a massive bid for the latter.
Raiola has dismissed all those reports, claiming that both his clients are happy where they are. However, if clubs are genuinely keen on them, then they should do their best to convince the agent.
In a recent interview with Rai Sport, Raiola made it clear that Balotelli does not want to leave despite the antagonism he is facing following Italy’s World Cup exit.
However, Raiola made one statement that underlines the influence he has on the players he manages. ‘I made a mistake in bringing Mario back to Italy’, Goal.com quotes him as saying.
It was Raiola who brokered the deal between Manchester City and Milan back in January 2013, and his statement makes it clear that he played a key role in played in Balotelli leaving the Eastlands to join the club he supported as a boy.
For clubs to sign Balotelli and Pogba, they need to first make Raiola happy – if he believes that a move is best for his clients, then it is likely that they will get their man.
On the face of it, Pogba has no reason to leave. The France international midfielder has established himself as arguably the best young player in the world in his two years at Juventus, has won back-to-back Serie A titles and is part of a team that can challenge for Champions League success next season.
Yet, if Raiola believes that Pogba would be better off at Chelsea, then it might just be out of Juventus’ hands.